Popular Education in Nineteenth Century St. Louis

  • Selwyn K. Troen


So Isaiah Forbes concluded his annual report as president of the St. Louis Board of Public Schools in 1855. Mid-nineteenth-century school directors, superintendents, and heads of departments universally echoed this confidence in the success of the schools and their continued growth. Moreover, they attempted to substantiate their claims with an impressive array of statistics that both summarized yearly operations and placed them in historical perspective. Beginning with Forbes’ report, successive Boards published through the end of the century, in English and German, an average of five to seven thousand copies for local and national distribution to broadcast the triumphs of the public schools.


Nineteenth Century Annual Report Public School District School White Collar 
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  1. 8.
    Annual Report, 1855, pp. 116–121. For a discussion of a parallel structure in Massachusetts, see Michael B. Katz, The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts (Cambridge, Mass., 1968), pp. 39–40, and Appendix C.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    For a portrait of comfortable females who make reform their vocation, see Christopher Lasch, The New Radicalism in America, 1889–1963: The Intellectual as a Social Type (New York, 1965), chapters 1, 2, and 4.Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    A classic progressive accounting of poverty is Robert Hunter, Poverty: Social Conscience in the Progressive Era, ed. by Peter d’A. Jones (New York, 1965).Google Scholar
  4. An example of contemporary scholarship is Stephan Thernstrom, Poverty and Progress: Social Mobility in a Nineteenth-Century City (Cambridge, Mass., 1964).Google Scholar
  5. 14.
    Although the census does not include information on income, it is possible to establish occupational hierarchies that reflect both status and wealth. The occupational matrix for the prosopography is an adaptation of the one developed by Stephan Thernstrom and Peter Knights in their studies of occupational mobility in Boston, and has been modified to include children’s and women’s vocations. A copy can be sent on request. For an abbreviated version of the matrix see Peter R. Knights, The Plain People of Boston 1830–1860 (New York, 1971), Appendix E.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    On professionalization see Robert H. Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877–1920 (New York, 1967), pp. 111–132. Also, the teen years were not yet defined as a distinct period in the life-cycle and special attention in the form of institutional care had not yet developed. Hence, the shift from the fourth or fifth year of school into the factory or office was considered natural. On attitudes towards teens, see John Demos and Virginia Demos, “Adolescence in Historical Perspective,” Journal of Marriage and the Family (November, 1969), 632–638.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    For a discussion of the expansion and the popular appreciation of the high school around the turn of the century, see Edward A. Krug, The Shaping of the American High School (New York, 1964), pp. 169–189.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    Joseph F. Kelt, “Growing Up in Rural New England, 1800–1840,” in Anonymous Americans: Explorations in Nineteenth Century Social History, ed. Tamara K. Hareven (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971), pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  9. 21.
    A major source for Harris’ ideas are the Annual Reports from 1867 through 1880. Other sources include Merle Curti, The Social Ideas of American Educators (Paterson, N.J., 1959), pp. 310–347; John S. Roberts, William T. Harris: His Educational and Related Philosophical Views (Washington, 1924), and Kurt Leidecker, Yankee Teacher (New York, 1946).Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    Annual Report, 1867, p. 71; Annual Report, 1871, p. 165, and Annual Report, 1872, p. 150. Harris never tired of this refrain. In 1900 as United States Commissioner of Education, he wrote: “In the United States the citizen must learn to help himself in this matter of gaining information, and for this reason he must use his school time to acquire the art of digging knowledge out of books.” William T. Harris, “Elementary Education,” in Education in the United States, ed. by Nicholas Murray Butler (Albany, N.Y., 1900), p. 11.Google Scholar
  11. 24.
    Seymour Martin Lipset and Reinhard Bendix, Social Mobility in Industrial Society (Berkeley, Calif., 1964), pp. 91–101.Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Paul Monroe, Founding of the American Public School System (New York, 1940), I, pp. 295 ff.Google Scholar
  13. For the problem of the charity stigma in a neighboring state, see John Pulliam, “Changing Attitudes toward the Public Schools in Illinois, 1825–1860,” History of Education Quarterly, VII (Summer 1967), 191–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© John L. Rury 2005

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  • Selwyn K. Troen

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